Sales Tip #27: Dealing with Difficult Customers

by Lin Morris

So, there I was, no electricity, mid-hurricane, awaiting my shotgun wedding to the woman I’d met fifteen minutes ago.

And that was just Day One on the job.

Before knocking on the farmhouse door, I snuck a quick look at my corporate sales notebook. Sales Tip #5: Park on the street – if they don’t see you coming, they can’t pretend nobody’s home.

Also: Sales Tip #19: Wear a hat so you can respectfully remove it.

Check and check.

Okay, I was selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door, not glamorous, but, hey – I was in college and tired of eating ramen. Plus, I got to finally explore the area.

I’d been in Alabama three months and hadn’t ventured any farther off campus than the one pitiful gay bar in town. Mostly lesbian students and some closeted farm boys who jumped at every noise like it was a police raid.

And Pete, my cute-as-a-puppy, every-weekend hookup with an accent like molasses on gingham.

My assigned route was Waldo County. This was backroad country: farmhouses, satellite dishes, cars on cinderblocks, every cliché one’s mind conjures upon hearing the word Alabama. My boss promised me fifty bucks if I made a first-day sale, a bonus I planned to win.

Wait, was that a raindrop?

Before I could decide whether to double-check my car windows, two things happened, fast: it began pouring, and the farmhouse door flew open, revealing a wild-eyed young woman in a white shift, hair in curlers.

“You’re early!” she growled violently. “I said four o’clock!”

She shut the door before I had the chance to remove my hat.


Out came the notebook again.

Sales Tip #21: Don’t be afraid to ask twice.

Okay. Since I hadn’t even asked once, there was no harm in trying.

I raised my fist before the door.

But before I could knock, two things happened, fast: the door flew open again and she pulled me into a dark, windowless hallway.

“Get in before he hears ya!” She’d removed the curlers and was brushing her hair up into a poof.

I removed my hat and smiled.

“Good afternoon, I’m–”

“Yeah-yeah-yeah, I know.” She smacked my hat back onto my head and shoved two suitcases at me. “Here! Go put ‘em in yer cab.”

As she turned the knob, a powerful wind pulled the door from her grasp and crashed it against the wall.

“Lilamae!” came a gruff voice from the next room.

“Spit on a cat!” Lilamae hissed. “Now look what you done. I told you to wait outside.”

“Actually, you—”

“Now we’re in for it.”


“You woke up Pa.”

“I didn’t—”

“Shh!” She glanced back nervously. “Maybe he’ll fall back t’sleep.”

“LILAMAE!” Or not.

Lilamae put her weight against the door and tried to open it slowly. The wind pushed back hard; her pumps made a little skreek on the linoleum.

“Hurry! I’ll be right there.”

She shoved me out into the rain and shut the door behind me.

Now what? Fat chance selling Lilamae or her Pa anything. Something told me they weren’t breathlessly awaiting the next Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue.

What would my notebook say?

Probably, Sales Tip #99: Head home, you walnut, before this storm gets worse.

But before I could check my notebook, two things happened, fast: the door flew open and a meaty hand pulled me right off my feet and into the house.

“Gotcha!” Lilamae’s Pa shouted. He was short and stocky, strong enough to pin me to the wall with one arm.

“Pa, stop!”

“Think you kin knock up my daughter and sneak off to elope?”

“What?!” I couldn’t laugh, not with a rifle pointed at my sternum. Instead, I removed my hat.

“Pa, how’d you find out?”

“I seen the emails, Lilamae!” He sneered at me. “I’d blast ya to Kingdom Come ‘cept it’s obvious she loves ya.”

“Sir,” I croaked, his arm on my throat creating quite an inconvenience, “I think there’s been a mistake.”

“And you made it.”

“Pa,” said Lilamae, “this ain’t my beau. This here’s the taxi driver come to take me to the bus station.”

“Actually,” I rasped, “I’m not.”

“Hesh up, both o’ya.” He hollered over his shoulder. “Jimmy Ray!”

“Yeah, Pa?” someone shouted from the next room.

“Git next door, tell the preacher we need ‘im.”

“Okay!” I heard the whooshing foul weather outside as he opened a door.

“Pa,” pleaded Lilamae, “I don’t even know this guy.”

“Yer gonna marry ‘im alright. But y’all ain’t runnin’ off nowheres. Gonna do it right here all legal so’s I can witness it myself.”

“Sir, let me give you my card.” I reached for my sample case, but lickety-split the old man raised and cocked his rifle. At least his hands were off my collapsing windpipe.

Just then the power went out, because of course it did.

A perfect time to run, except the old man’s Popeye arm was back on me.

The only sound was rain hitting the tin roof.

At long last the back door opened.

“Pa, the preacher wasn’t home! Hey, what happened to the lights?”

“Jimmy Ray, bring a flashlight!”

Crashes in the dark, then a beam came swinging around the corner.

“Here ya—”

But before Jimmy Ray could finish his sentence, two things happened, fast: the electricity came on, and there, handing his Pa a flashlight was—

“Pete?” I blinked in the sudden light.

Pete’s puppy dog eyes turned big as hubcaps.

“Pete?” Lilamae turned on her brother. “That’s yer name this month? Well, Pete, if I’m a-going down, yer comin’ along. Pa, I’m not sleeping with this guy. Jimmy Ray is!”

Pa dropped the rifle, his hands now otherwise occupied with clutching his chest and all.

That’s when they all started shouting at once.

And that’s when I threw open the door and ran out into the storm.

I didn’t stop until I reached my car.

Not even for the guy at the end of the driveway, asking me who’d ordered a cab.

Lin Morris lives and writes in his hometown of Portland, Oegon, USA. His work has appeared in Unlikely Stories; Trembling with Fear; Flumes Literary Journal; Little Old Lady Comedy; Meet Cute Press; Second Chance Lit; Suddenly and Without Warning; and in the anthologies Flash of Brilliance, Coffin Blossoms, Breathless, TWF v. 3, and Bullshit Lit. His novels Spot the Not and The Marriage Wars are available on He won the 2020 YeahWrite Micro Fiction Competition.

3 thoughts on “Sales Tip #27: Dealing with Difficult Customers”

  1. What a fun story! I just moved to Portland myself (my story “Sticks And Stones” was published here about a month ago). I loved how Pete tied it all together. So much character and action in a little package.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: